What does one do while stranded in the cabin in a blizzard…or just practicing in home isolation during a pandemic? I was spending an afternoon wandering through social networking sights looking for pictures of antique cars. Ocassionally I would see a car sporting white wall tires! How long ago was that all the rage?
I can remember buying my first car. $400, all the money a college sophomore could garner, bought me a 1957 Studebaker Commander. For those of you that can’t remember what one looked like, not the airplane nose of the early ‘50s but more like a ’55 Chevy. But on steroids. The car needed tires badly, so off I went to the local tire retreader. No whitewalls or two weeks! I drove that car for two weeks on slick tires with the threads showing because my first car was going to have whitewalls on it.
Whatever was the fascination with whitewalls? And who thought up that idea to color the side of the tires white? Well, good old Wikepedia solved the mystery. It seems rubber is naturally white and early cars used natural rubber for their tires, therfore the whole tire was white. But the rubber picked up stains from all the horse “stuff” on the roads and it was very hard to keep them clean. So the solution was to dye the tread area black. Yes, it wasn’t that somebody came up with idea of white sidewalls rather someone came up with idea of black treads. Over time the white sidewall became narrower and narrower until sometime in the early ‘70s they just disappeared.
Why did we lose our fascination for whitewalls? I can remember thinking cars without them looked cheap. I think the last car I had with a sidewall decoration was a ’69 Pontiac that had a red stripe on the tire. Have you ever considered putting white sidewalls on that antique in your garage?